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This morning, I woke up at about 8:15 and made some breakfast. I felt inclined to check my phone, but I didn't want to start my day off with too much reality. I saw my therapist. Later, at the park, I contemplated death a bit as I watched all the people summering around me. I came back home and was overcome with hunger while I blared some psychedelic records and had lunch. The park made me tired, so I don't think I'll get much else done today.

Such are the stories that Ultimate Painting tell: the seemingly perfunctory ones that have a few hints of sadness. It's everyday stuff. They were telling these tales last year over their slack guitar lines that meander around the edges in 4/4 time. It's just as casual an endeavor on Green Lanes, but they seem to be a little more confident. Like Lou Reed, they acknowledge depression and more or less watch as it floats along by: "I'm staying here/Staring out into these years/And what a sight as everything flips into night."

Imagine a less hypnotizing Real Estate, and you're in the same space as Green Lanes. But, Ultimate Painting's lack of just about all flare is so steadfast, I find the list of things I wish they would improve upon to be very short. I would ask for vocal effects, but I think that would distract from the stark lyricism. I would ask for distortion, but I don't think these dudes have much they feel aggressively about. I would ask for more fast tempos, but they're not interested in rushing anything. None of these excuses actually exist in the album's vacuum, which makes their refusal to make anything all that evocative (aside from the mildly depressing lyrics) very frustrating. It's quite easy to get other things done since the music is so unobtrusive. Since it's so relaxed, it doesn't do much good to put headphones on and dig too deep into the songs. There's a push to rile some extra grit out of the record, but Ultimate Painting continually push back and all but force (god forbid) their lax attitude. "Take a deep breath/Into the ocean/Playing in slow motion" sing James and Jack on 'The Ocean'. The melancholy is apparent, but the band take pointed steps toward different focuses like the fact that they started smoking again on 'Woken by Noises', the one song that truly sticks out of the track list. It's a little faster than the rest, which all mosey along at a slow ramble. It's also sung quickly as if the band intentionally wanted to stay away from taking life too fast elsewhere. Why else would it be the only track with a forward momentum?

Ultimate Painting are stuck in a world where listeners demand albums. They're also stuck in a year that has put out some of the finest concept records in recent memory. None of their songs are bad, though. They just have the unfair expectation to put forth a coherent string of songs. They did do this on Green Lanes. But, sadly, the songs are experiences on their own and not as a group. 'Two From the Vault' has playful guitar responses to the vocals that are otherwise rhythmically same. 'Woken by Noises' has the catchiest lyrics. Single and keeper '(I've Got the) Sanctioned Blues' showcases Ultimate Painting's signature chord progressions, which rise and fall over a goofy story about how the UK benefits system really fucked our subject's day over. There's no better way to mask London anxiety than to gripe about how government really sucks sometimes.

Although Green Lanes is a total bore, it is cool how they bear this mask on a handful of different songs. They've made that style of storytelling their own. Their contemporaries (Titus Andronicus, Parquet Courts) look depression and city living directly in the face, but Ultimate Painting seem to cast a casual glance at their problems before shrugging them off in a slow cadence of rambling and plodding guitar sounds. When a piano joins the bridge on 'Break the Chain', it's like adding salt and pepper to something bland. That being said, you can't let it get you too excited. It merely follows the exact chords and bass line, after all. Green Lanes does an excellent job of bedding down excitement across its entire length, and not just in this one moment. If you wanted something a little more edgy, too bad.

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